Maintaining green buildings

  March 31, 2009

I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s topic is, maintaining green buildings.
Taking control of a new health care facility is a challenge maintenance and engineering managers might face only once or twice in their careers — if ever. Those who have managed a facility since the day it opened understand the many challenges a new building can pose.
Many of the challenges stem from the advanced technologies inside new facilities, as well as the need for training technicians on the proper maintenance of building systems and components. But when the health care facility is considered one of the most environmentally responsible in North America, that challenge becomes even greater.
The Modesto Medical Center in Modesto, Calif., is a 670,000-square-foot complex comprised of medical offices and a full-service hospital. The facility opened in October 2008 and has served as a green laboratory for Kaiser Permanente’s future green building projects.
As one would expect, one of the greenest hospitals in North America boasts many environmentally friendly features. They include:
• Occupancy sensors for lighting. “We’ve spent a lot of time going from room to room and adjusting to get those things just right,” says Jack Claycomb, the medical center’s plant engineer.
• An energy-efficient HVAC system. “We have standards for the major mechanical systems — the chillers, the air handlers — that are designed to be energy efficient,” says Tom Cooper, Kaiser’s national manager sustainable building design and research. “Our standards are focused more on energy efficiency and maintenance than on just lower first cost.”
• Water-saving plumbing fixtures. “Everything is low flow,” Claycomb says. “You’re going to see a lot of automatic shutoff. About 99.9 percent of the sinks are all on photocells.”
• Variable-frequency drives on all pumps, which reduce energy use.
The center’s maintenance and operations staff has faced many of the same challenges as other departments do when taking over a new hospital, such as entering the information that comprises the hospital’s preventive maintenance database. But overall, the staff has found success in taking over one of the most environmentally responsible hospitals in the country.
Says Claycomb, “I haven’t seen too many disadvantages to our greenness here. I haven’t seen anything that just didn’t work. It’s been kind of neat to work with and kind of neat to see being built. Every bit that I’ve seen so far all seems like there’s been a savings one way or another.”


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